State seeks owner of boat leaking into Savannah River

State regulators are working to determine who owns a 41-foot boat abandoned in the Savannah River after it was found to be leaking diesel fuel.

The Net Web had been moored at the Augusta marina at one time and was moved downstream during one of the boat races last year, said Savannah Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus.

Rising water pushed the boat higher up on the shoreline, and when the waters receded, the boat tipped and began to leak, he said. It now rests on the Georgia side of the river downstream from the Boathouse and marina.

During the weekend, a U.S. Coast Guard crew responded to the area, along with officials from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and Savannah Riverkeeper.

According to a post on the Coast Guard’s Web site, investigators from Marine Safety Unit Savannah helped deploy a fuel-absorbing boom around the boat as a protective barrier for any future contaminants that may leak from the vessel.

The Coast Guard is assisting the Georgia officials with locating the registered owner and developing a plan to remove the remaining pollutants aboard the vessel.

Bonitatibus said the agencies involved are trying to determine the best way to get the boat removed from the river, and also to determine who is responsible for moving it.

“We’re now working with a company called Towboat Savannah,” she said. “We’re hoping they can be up here Tuesday to pump out the rest of the fuel.”

The boat’s former owner, she said, apparently forfeited his ownership after failing to pay his marina slip rental for more than two years.

“So now we think we may have found someone willing to take the boat who may want to fix it up,” Bonitatibus said. “We’re just trying to get it pumped out so it doesn’t spill out any more pollution.”

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